Keystone Foods LLC, the maker of McDonald’s iconic chicken nuggets, seems to be getting a lot of attention from major meat companies. In a Bloomberg report, business insiders reveal that Tyson Foods, Cargill Inc. and Fosun International Ltd. have expressed their interest in potentially acquiring the American supplier of protein foods to McDonald’s, KFC and Taco Bell.
Keystone Foods is owned by Marfrig Global Foods SA, a Brazillian beef manufacturer who purchased the company in 2010 for $1.26 billion. The Brazillian company plans to sell Keystone for upwards of $3 billion. Keystone has operations in the US, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the final agreement on the transaction may be made in the coming weeks. Major players in this transaction refused to comment on this to Bloomberg.
However, when it comes to the potential winner of this acquisition race, Tyson and Cargill seem to have the advantage. Tyson Foods is already known for their meat manufacturing practices, which makes them a good fit for a new chicken nugget manufacturing facility. Tyson might also continue the relationship that Keystone has with American McDonald’s, KFC and Taco Bell chains, which would mean an extra source of revenue and guaranteed transactions for the company.
Cargill might stand out as a buyer as well because they already have a supply relationship with McDonald’s. The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Cargill division is the official supplier for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s restaurant. This might be indicative of Cargill’s ability to better transition Keystone operations under their portfolio.
Marfrig, on the other hand, has their eyes on the American beef industry. As the largest producer of animal protein products worldwide, the company plans on selling off Keystone in order to focus on expanding their beef, poultry and lamb production operations. After the acquisition, the company plans on using some of their profits to acquire a $969 million controlling stake in National Beef Packing Co., which is the fourth largest American beef-packing company. This acquisition will allow Marfrig to expand their services, as they are currently only responsible for the slaughter, manufacture and distribution of beef and lamb meat.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans will eat a record breaking amount of meat products this year. With the estimated average annual consumption being 222.2 pounds of red meat per American consumer in 2018, the meat industry is expected to be a booming business this year. In addition, domestic production of meat products is expected to increase as well to surpass 100 billion pounds. This trend may be because of popular high protein and fat diets such as the Ketogenic diet or the Paleo diet that consumers have been doing to avoid carbohydrates.
With the acquisition currently in its early stages, there is no telling which company will have the winning bid on Keystone Foods. However, a $3 billion acquisition would be 11 times more valuable than Keystone’s earnings last year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.